All Around the Internet and Maryland

Today I have links for you instead of a post. You probably know that this month is Autism Acceptance Month. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is featuring stories about autistic people this month and today it was my and Jack’s turn. Check out how awesome the Jackster is over there.

I am also being featured as a Mom’s Life Uncensored Blogger on the Stir this month and the other day they reposted one of my stories from a little more than a year ago. It is about the day I took my kids to ASAN’s Day of Mourning and Sam’s incredible reaction to it. Check out how awesome the Samster is over there.

I wish now that I had a link to something about how awesome the Q-ball is, but I don’t. Rest assured, however, that he is. Awesome, that is.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that Listen to Your Mother shows are coming up over the next weeks. Find one in your area. I, personally, am going to see friends in both the DC (May 4) and Baltimore (April 26) shows. I can’t wait! Why don’t you join me?

Lessons of Packing #1

Thank you all so much for your congrats on our new house! And thank you so much for your opinions on yard sale vs. donation of excess goods. You pretty much confirmed that I should be lazy and just donate. I thank you for that. Although I am actually going to try to sell some stuff on a Facebook yard sale. We’ll see how that goes.

Regardless, I’ve been packing up the things we actually do want to keep, which, after ten years in one house, turns out to be a lot of stuff. My house has started to turn into a cubeworld. It’s like I’m living in Minecraft these days.

Photo of stacks of moving boxes in a room.

Maybe I could build a little fort out of my cubes.

As I’ve been packing, I’ve learned some things. And because I share like that, I’m going to force you to listen to what I’ve learned. I am, of course, assuming that your house is exactly the same as mine.

1. Over the course of ten years, you will accumulate a tremendous number of gloves. You will not realize this because every time you need gloves for three kids, you will find four gloves and a mitten. When you empty out the glove box to pack it, however, you will find approximately 80 million gloves. Some of them will match each other.

2. In your gloves box, you will also find two fossilized fried chicken bones, leading to your being harassed by your cats for the entirety of winter clothes packing.

3. If you pack your kids’ winter coats in a box and then lose that box in a pile of other boxes, the weather will instantly turn frigid.

3a. Because you refused to pack your own winter coat when you packed your kids’, you will look like an asshole when you’re cozy and warm in your parka and they are shivering in light sweatshirts.

4. When you have more than a month to pack, it is hard to refrain from packing all the easy-to-grab things that get used every day. You will start to convince yourself that you won’t need to use things like pots or the pencil sharpener in the next several weeks.

5. I packed the stapler. I won’t need the stapler, right?

6. When you very carefully remove Algernon’s Army from its shelf and pack it, something else will immediately take its place.

Photo of Oreo the cat sitting on a small white shelf attached the wall just above a tank of gerbils.

This shelf ornament would be quickly replaced by another cat, who would be quickly followed by another.

7. Your husband will be mad if you show him a box marked “TOOLS” and ask him to jump inside.

Photo of my hand holding a box labeled "tools" in the foreground and Alex staring blankly at the camera in the background.

In my defense, he is a TERRIBLE packer.

8. You will find Quinn’s ChildFind papers, which you have been looking for for months, in a file unsurprisingly labeled “Quinn’s ChildFind,” but it will have been filed nowhere near any other special education paperwork.

9. The recovery of said papers will make you hope that all of your lost items will reappear before you move. Next up on the lost items wish list: my brown clogs. How the hell do you lose two whole shoes?

10. No matter how much stuff you think you have, you have more.

*****

Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. I want to thank Kelly so very much for her donation. You rock, Kelly. You can make your own donation online.

A Big Move

Oh, you guys, things are coming up Stimey.

I have big news. You may know (or you may not) that Team Stimey has been rapidly outgrowing our house for a while now. For example, Jack and Quinn share a room, which is lovely when they get along and a NIGHTMARE when they are fighting. Sam’s room is too small for all of his books and Alex and I made the bathroom-less upstairs floor of the house our master bedroom before we realized how dumb that was. Also, when someone visits us, I have to bribe Sam by buying him more books to get him to give up his bed and let our guest sleep in it while he sleeps on the couch.

I understand that I have made my house sound terrible, but it is really not. It is a lovely house with a fantastic backyard in a quiet, friendly neighborhood, but my children just keep growing bigger and bigger and it is not working for us anymore.

We’d been hoping to move in the next year or so but weren’t looking yet. Except it turns out that Alex secretly was looking. He’d been watching one house in particular for a long time and after its price was reduced for the second time, he was all, “Hey, wanna go to an open house, just for fun?”

Long story short, we’re buying that house and we’ll be moving in May.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Photo of the top of a real estate sign. Chester the stuffed mouse is sitting on the top, right next to the sign that says, "Under Contract."

Chester is pretty excited about this move too.

You guys, I almost cannot contain my excitement. For reals. This house is amazing. So amazing. Each of my kids is going to have their own room. We will have a guest room. THERE IS A BATHROOM IN THE MASTER BEDROOM.

I could go on. I probably will in future posts. You are going to get so tired of me yabbering on about this new dream house we are going to live in.

*big happy sigh and just a little bit of hand flapping*

So, what do our kids think of the whole thing? They’ve been to the house once and they loved it. The night that we told them that our offer had been accepted and we were going to move in to the house, they started yelling, “Hugs for everyone!” and jumping around in joy.

As long as they get to bring their stuff, their friends still get to come over to hang out, and the cats come with us, the kiddos are ON BOARD.

Photo of Ruby the black cat sitting in a cardboard box.

We’ll be packing Ruby in this box.

We are all so excited we almost can’t stand it.

Step one of living our new charmed lives in the new house, of course, is that we have to pack up our old one. Because we have a nearly 60-day close, we fortunately have a lot of time to get our shit together.

Trust me, we’re going to need it.

We’re working hard on packing, with an emphasis on getting rid of stuff we don’t want or need anymore. Honestly, the more we can trash or donate, the better. How to get rid of that stuff is the question though. Alex and I are trying to decide if we want to have a yard sale to get rid of a lot of our stuff (cash money! but a lot of work) or if we just want to donate it all and take the tax deduction (I throw some crap in the driveway, make a call to a charity, and I’m done).

Do you have opinions on this? I’m torn. I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

I would also very much like your emphatic finger crossings and knock on woods that nothing goes wrong between now and closing. Everything looks good and the forecast is for smooth sailing, but I will be on edge until I hold those keys in my hand.

(Keys! I finally get to throw away all the keys sitting around my house that belong to god knows what!)

If you need me over the next month and a half, I’ll have a cardboard box in one hand and a marker and packing tape in the other.

*more jumping up and down followed by an awkward jump-dance*

Hungry Cats

Lest you ever look at sweet little Quinn with his flowing golden hair and blue eyes and delicate limbs and question if he is my child…wonder no more.

He wrote the following story for school, which, let’s be honest here, I could have written just for this blog. Evidently, the story is supposed to be “realistic fiction,” so you can either ignore the fact that the cats talk or, as Quinn explained to me, understand that when they are talking to each other, what we hear are meows and mews.

Quinn’s story is reproduced here not just with his permission but with his unadulterated glee. Quinn’s illustrations appear before the text (in quotation marks) that goes with them.

Paper on which is written "Hungry Cats by Quinn" Underneath is a drawing of three cats standing to the left of two food bowls and a tank with three gerbils inside.Colorful drawing of a neighborhood.“The story is about 3 cats trying to get to 3 gerbils. The gerbils are: gerbil #1, gerbil #2, and gerbil #3. The cats are Oreo, Ruby, and Starfire. Oreo and the others want cat food—gerbils if possible.”

[Editor's note: I would like to point out two things: 1) Even though the gerbils do actually have names, I guess Quinn made the choice to genericize them to make their imminent doom more palatable. 2) Quinn seems to be a fan of the Oxford comma. More proof that he is my kid.]

Drawing of three cats. The middle one (Oreo) has a thought bubble above her head in which is a drawing of a chainsaw and a drawing of the gerbil tank.“Oreo said, ‘If we want the gerbils, we need a chainsaw.’ ‘Let’s just have cat food,’ Ruby said. ‘Let’s worry about the gerbils later.’ ‘Okay,’ said Starfire.”

[Editor's note: Anyone else worried about Quinn's path STRAIGHT TO CHAINSAW?!]

Drawing of Starfire next to the gerbil tank. Above her head is a thought bubble that features a drawing of Oreo holding a chainsaw in her mouth. Dude, I KNOW this doesn't make sense. I am sorry. The drawings are pretty out there.“After Oreo and the others woke up, they went to the gerbil cage. Oreo said, ‘Let’s get the chainsaw.’ Ruby said, ‘Yeah, not gonna work.’”

[Editor's note: Not gonna work for so many reasons including the fact that in that picture, Oreo seems to be holding the chainsaw in her mouth, but let's hang in there and see where he goes with this.]

Drawing of Oreo standing. Starfire is on her back in front of Oreo with all four legs straight up in the air.“Starfire said, ‘Guys, I have a…whoa!’ Then Oreo says, ‘Let’s save it.’ Meanwhile Starfire was grumbling on the floor because she got pushed by Oreo. Ruby said, ‘That was weird.’”

[Editor's note: BUT WHAT DID STARFIRE HAVE?????!!!!!]

Drawing of all three cats. Starfire has a thought bubble in which is a drawing of Oreo rushing at the gerbil tank.“‘The idea…’ said Starfire, ‘is Oreo rams the cage with full power.’ Ruby said, ‘It’s night. The prey is awake.’ Ruby was right.”

[Editor's note: Ahhhh...Starfire had an IDEA.]

A two-panel drawing this time. The first panel shows Oreo rushing the gerbil tank. The second  shows her with a line coming out of her mouth. Quinn has written (and adorably misspelled) the words "gerbile tail" with an arrow pointing to the dangling line.“Oreo then smashed and completely destroyed the cage. And soon they were munching and crushing on meat. Gerbil meat. Then they went to bed.”

[Editor's note: I think we have the answer to the question, "Which pets does Quinn like better, the cats or the gerbils?" Also, I think I might go reinforce those gerbil tanks.]

The End.

*****

Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. You can make your own donation online.

Introducing…

It’s been several months since Algernon headed off to his next adventure. I still miss him. He’ll always hold a small, dirty white space in my heart.

And yet, even though his absence still stings, I think I might be finally ready to start bringing a new mousy friend on adventures with me. Because you all are the best, I had a large selection of rodent buddies from which to choose.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

I ended up drawn to a mouse that I had originally given Quinn because he wanted his own little guy like Algernon. After he saw all of the friends you guys sent, he gave me the gift of the mouse I had given to him months before.

He is a mouse born for adventure.

A close up of a small stuffed mouse in my jeans pocket. He looks just like Algernon, who was all white, except this guy has a white chest and stomach and a brown/black brindle rest of his body.

I started carrying him around with me a while back.

There’s more to adopting a new mascot, however, than just popping him in your bag and dragging him places he doesn’t want to go. You also have to name the little dude. I spent a long time trying to find the moniker that suited him best. I tried to find mouse names from literature, but none of them suited him that well. I ruminated on his name for a really long time, but there was one name that stuck with me. I decided to let him tell you what it is.

The mouse holding a quill pen and sitting on a piece of paper on which is written, "I'm Chester!"

He’s Chester!

Naming task taken care of, we headed out to see what we could see. Unfortunately, most of what we saw on Chester’s first trip out was traffic.

Chester sitting on a dashboard of a car "looking" at multiple lanes of stropped traffic.

DC can be frustrating.

He did better on a later trip to the pet store where I was buying a lot of lab blocks (aka, food) to feed my gerbils. Chester got reacquainted with some old friends.

Chester in front of a tank of small mice. There is a sign taped to the tank that reads, "All sorts of fancy mice $3.49 each"

Fancy mice. All sorts of them.

I’ve been enjoying having Chester around, but he’s a little bit of an attention hog and he will go to any means necessary to get it.

Chester holding a large, soft mallet in front of a giant gong.

Bang a gong, Chester.

I will say this for him: He’s a very brave mouse.

Chester's back is to the camera and he is standing directly in front of Starfire the cat, who is looking directly above the camera.

He’s a daredevil, that Chester.

I blame a lot of his bravado and wild behavior on all the caffeine he drinks.

Chester holding the handle of a very small ceramic mug of brown liquid.

Sometimes he overdoes it.

Chester with a paw through the handles of two ceramic mugs, now empty.

And sometimes he REALLY overdoes it.

Chester with his face up to the opening of a large Starbucks cup.

And sometimes that mouse straight up embarrasses himself.

Regardless of his addictive behavior and his guzzling of hot chocolate out of coffee cups, I feel very thankful for Quinn’s selfless generosity.

Quinn sitting in a chair with Starfire the cat cradled in his arm and Chester sitting on top of her.

Thanks, pal.

No matter what, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Photo of me with Chester kissing my cheek. I hope we have a lot of adventures together.

*****

In other news, Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. Thank you so much to Jodi and the Paulsons for their donations. You can make your own donation online.

It Was EXACTLY Like the National Treasure Movies Except Not at All

A few weeks ago, I got an email inviting my family to the National Archives for a family day event and a pre-opening coffee with a curator to celebrate their “Making Their Mark: Stories through Signatures” exhibit.

Immediately upon receipt of said email, I realized that (a) I had never dragged my kids through that particular institution and (b) I should rectify that immediately. Also, (c) I’d never been and I really wanted to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights in person.

Our morning at the Archives came around this past Saturday and I was prepared. Museum-type spaces can be tough for my kiddos, particularly Quinn, so I made sure to not use the m-word and I pulled out the other heavy gun I had in my arsenal: I reminded them about the National Archives scenes from the National Treasure movies.

That did the trick.

We arrived to find juice and pastries as well as curator Jennifer Johnson, who gave us a personal tour through the Making Their Mark exhibit, which she had curated. It was really cool. The exhibit is all about signatures, from athletes signing sports memorabilia to Benedict Arnold’s oath of allegiance to a display of pens used by presidents to sign bills into law.

It was even more interesting than I thought it would be. There was a patent application filed by Michael Jackson, a letter from Johnny Cash to Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon’s FBI application, and any number of other fascinating documents and items. All three of my kids were also really interested, which is notable because there are not a lot of things that my three kids are all into.

The backs of my three kids looking at a display of 50 pens in a frame.

One of my favorites was this display of pens that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson used to sign bills into law.

One of the exhibits was a full-size door that members of a home builders association sent to President Reagan to draw attention to their economic troubles. Jack took a look at the door, listened to the curator explain that it featured signatures on one side and the address on the other, and said, “Excuse me? Excuse me? I think the president was all, ‘What the bleep is this door doing in my mailbox!’”

Yep. That’s Team Stimey, keeping it classy across the generations.

In my defense, at least Jack says “bleep” instead of actual curse words.

The part of the exhibit that might have captured my kids’ attention more than any other was the auto-signing machine that was set up near the exit. This particular machine auto-signed John Hancock’s signature.

Jack carefully watching the mechanism of an auto-signing machine. There is a pen attached via a mechanism that follows the grooves in a disc that guides the signature.

Jack might have been more interested in the mechanics of the machine than the result.

We still had a few minutes before the Archives opened to the public so the curator took us to the Rotunda where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are displayed. I may have majorly geeked out there. This may also be the place where I was reprimanded by a guard.

There are no photos allowed in the Archives (barring special permission on a private tour in certain areas), so I’ll give you this image provided to me.

Photo of the Rotunda where there are murals of the founding fathers on the walls and six pages of documents, each in their own case: the Declaration, the Constitution (4 pages), and the Bill of Rights.

It was incredibly cool to see these documents close up. The Bill of Rights is my favorite.

I asked the curator how accurate the National Treasure depiction of the National Archives was and she told me that even though none of the filming was done there, it was actually pretty close. It is here that I might have to admit to you that my kids love those films and that we own DVD copies of both of them.

I am so ashamed.

Anywho, from there, we headed to the public Family Day activities that were taking place adjacent to the Making Their Mark exhibit. There were all kinds of good activities for all ages.

Jack standing at a white board where he is matching photos of and quotes by presidents to their pictures.

Jack matched presidential photos to their quotes and names. He may have needed some help to complete said process.

Sam using a template of John Adams' signature to make his own version.

Sam recreated John Adams’ signature.

Quinn slumped in a chair with a grumpy look on his face.

And Quinn sighed loudly and often.

There were crafts in another room, but the real treasure was the room set up with fountain and quill pens where my kids all learned how to write and draw using a pot of ink. Sam took approximately sixteen years to write a letter to each member of the family and Quinn and Jack drew their cats.

Quinn smiling and holding up an ink drawing of his cat Oreo.

This is a remarkably accurate representation of Oreo. I certainly wasn’t that good with the quill pen.

I was even retweeted by the @USNatArchives, which was also a kind of geeky high for me.

Screenshot of a tweet from the National Archives. The photo is of Jack looking sort of exhausted, patiently filling in his drawing of a cat with blank ink from a quill pen. The tweet says, "RT @Stimey: Drawing a picture of a black cat with a quill pen is hard work. #signatures @USNatArchives"

My kids are adept at cat drawings.

I feel very lucky that my family was invited to this event. As I say, I’ve been wanting to take my kids to the National Archives for a long time and this was the best possible way to have a first visit.

That said, your family can visit this exhibit too. The Making Their Mark exhibit is open through January 5, 2015.There will be more Making Their Mark Family Days on July 18 and December 30. There will be Constitution-in-Action Family Learning Labs on April 15, July 10, July 23, and July 29. For more information about these events, as well as others, go to archivesfoundation.org.

*****

In other news, Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. Thank you so much to Sarah Elizabeth, Laura, my friend Heather and her family, and my young friends Katie and Brooke (and their terrific parents) for their donations. You can make your own donation online.

Exercise and Win

I write a lot about Jack’s hockey team and how much it means to me. As part of that, I also write about what I think it means to him as well. I talk to him about it and I watch him both struggle and triumph at practices and games, but sometimes it is hard to know what he really thinks about his team.

That’s why I was happy to see the paper that he brought home with him from school today. His school is doing its “family life” (read: they’re teaching the kiddos about puberty and adolescence) lessons this week and, as part of that, they apparently had to fill out a worksheet about social groups in their lives. Jack chose his hockey team.

Photo of part of Jack's worksheet. In answer to the question, "How was it formed?" under "Hockey Team," Jack has written "formed by hockey players, passed down to kids."

Actually, the Cheetahs were originally created as a bar mitzvah project. The story of this team’s evolution from its small start to what it is today is a pretty incredible one.

Among Jack’s answers about how much time he spends with his group each week and so on, were some pretty telling thoughts.

When asked what the purpose of the social group was, he didn’t write that it was to learn how to play hockey. He didn’t write that it was to win championships. He wrote that the purpose of the Cheetahs is to, “work as a team, cooperate with others.”

I think that’s pretty cool and says a lot about the coaches of the Cheetahs that this is what 10-year-olds learn from them.

Asked to answer what contributions he makes to the group, Jack wrote, “Everyone gets to play, score—and win.” The kid has been paying attention.

But my favorite answer was to the question, “How does this group benefit you?” to which he wrote, “I get to exercise and win.”

I find my kid so charming.

Jack’s charm aside, though, he’s totally right. That team is full of exercise and win.

See, I believe in inclusion. I would love it if every kid could find a way to meaningfully participate in their community and school sports teams. Some Cheetahs do. We have players who play on those teams in addition to the Cheetahs. But there are some players, including Jack, for whom a typical hockey team as they now exist just would not work.

Aside from the opportunity, I love the role models Jack gets built into the Cheetahs that he wouldn’t get if he were playing on a typical team. I love that he has role models who were kids just like him, but who are now a few years older. Having those older teammates with similar neurology is of tremendous benefit to the younger kids on the team. I hope to see Jack grow into the same leadership roles that I see some of his older peers taking.

A few weeks ago, Jack was having a tough time at practice. He had a mentor (a teenage boy) working with him, trying to keep him engaged and happy on the ice. It was a little bit of a losing battle. For whatever reason, Jack just wasn’t into it that day. No matter what his coach and mentor did, Jack didn’t want to participate in the drills and he was surly as hell. I was pretty sure he would end up coming off the ice early that morning.

Then this older player who was helping out that morning saw what was happening and skated over to the two of them. That player and the mentor came up with their own little drill just for Jack. Within minutes, Jack was laughing and skating and participating and being all-around awesome.

That few minutes really cemented what I love about the Cheetahs. See, the Cheetahs aren’t just about typical teens and coaches helping the players. It is about self-leadership and teamwork and peer mentoring and cooperation and self-direction and learning all of that while getting a great workout. It is about that older player seeing a younger player struggle and stepping up to lead and teach and connect.

In other words, it is about exercise and win.

*****

Thank you so much to Barbara and my mom for donating to this year’s Cheetah-thon! The whole team appreciates it so much. We still welcome donations for this year’s big fundraiser through May. Thank you for thinking of our team!